The holy grail of any HR benefit is to make employees happy without costing much money. But sadly, most fringe benefits fail at one or the other – either they cost the company a ton of money, or the employees don’t really care a rat’s ass about them. This week is “National Dog Week”, so I decided to write about something that may actually achieve that holy grail: pet-friendly workplace policies. How would you like to have a ruff day at the office?
Stop Chasing Unicorns
For the last twenty years, HR Departments have been chasing the unicorn of “work-life balance”. What they still don’t realize is that work-life balance is not real. In fact, if you still believe in work-life balance, then I have a bridge to sell you!
Work-life balance is not real because there is only life – and all that time you spend at the office is part of it. We cannot separate our work from our life. Instead, we should be trying to bring a little life back into the workplace! Pet-friendly workplace policies are a step in the right direction.
Pet-Friendly Workplace Policies
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Especially in Corporate America. Maybe that’s why your pet will be perfectly at home in your office. (Provided, of course, you follow a few guidelines suggested by the folks at PuppySpot):
What’s so great about pet-friendly workplace policies? For one, there are health benefits. Pets have been shown to help reduce stress, blood-pressure, and even lower cholesterol. We all could probably use a little less stress at work, for sure.
But companies are not in business to worry about their employees’ health, amiright? (If they were, you wouldn’t be sitting for a living). So what’s in it for them? Why bring pets into the workplace? Creativity and teamwork, for starters!
Creativity and Teamwork
Knowledge workers need to interact, share ideas, and share inspiration to be highly effective. In my fifteen years in Corporate America, I always found that my best ideas happened when I got out from behind my desk and talked to people in the company. I learned how things worked and why they happened, I built relationships, and I was more effective at solving problems because of it.
Occasionally I had bosses who discouraged this type of office interaction, believe it or not! They thought workers needed to have their noses in their spreadsheets all the time – the more hours the better. Many corporate managers think work can only be something they can measure.
This is obviously an asinine way to manage white-collar jobs, but for some reason, even the most forward-thinking Silicon Valley companies actively hire and promote managers who think this way. These managers and their companies simply shoot themselves in the foot by chaining their workers to their desks.
A Dogged Manager
So this is why the idea of pet-friendly workplace policies is appealing to me, and why any HR Department worth their salt should be looking at them. A dog (or other pet) in the office is a social magnet. It will encourage some workers to get up from their desk to interact and build relationships – even when the boss discourages it. Pet-friendly workplace policies are a smart company’s work-around for bad bosses.
With pets in the workplace, workers will have more face-to-face interaction (and perhaps less email). There will be more learning, more creativity, more teamwork, and more good ideas. Oh yeah, and you’ve got a real-live stress reducer in the cubicle! What’s not to like about that?
An Anchor Benefit
From a worker’s perspective, there are only two types of HR Benefits: those you love, and those you don’t. Nearly everyone loves things like 401k matching and extra days off. A good health insurance plan is also important to many workers. These are “anchor benefits” because employees love them, and they don’t want to lose them. They make employees think twice about jumping ship. The problem is that they also cost a ton of money.
Beyond a few expensive keystone benefits, most other fringe benefits are fluff. You probably don’t participate in them, and if you do, they’re certainly not going to anchor you to your job or your company. They won’t make you think twice about jumping ship to a better opportunity.
Pet-friendly workplace policies are an anchor benefit for pet owners as well as pet lovers, which is a lot of people. Here are a bunch of big companies that already realize this and have implemented their own pet-friendly policies.
Haters Will Hate
Of course, haters will hate. There are dog-haters, cat-haters, iguana-haters, and even pet-rock haters. In fact, not everyone will benefit from pet-friendly workplace policies. Plus, HR Departments need to deal with allergy issues, hyper-activity, potty-training, and other messy issues that pets can cause.
And maybe that’s the rub. Maybe it’s easier just to maintain the status quo sterilized office environment. Keep suppressing creativity and teamwork! Be a clock watcher! Keep trying to separate your life from your work! (Don’t).
Look, life is complicated. Even a well-considered pet-friendly policy isn’t a cake walk. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to bring our humanity back into the workplace.